How does an individual like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab get on a plane with an explosive device with the intent to cause catastrophic harm? Clearly, the security measures we put in place did not work. The key question now is what lessons the Obama administration will draw from this incident to improve security procedures.
There are a lot of questions to be asked and answered. One thing is clear: we got lucky in this case. Although European officials reportedly provided advanced passenger data before the flight left Amsterdam; U.S. officials did not take the appropriate action. If it had not been for the bravery of the passengers and a device that malfunctioned we would be talking about many dead. This was a spectacular failure of our air travel security system and that needs to be rectified immediately.
Congress must assert its constitutionally provided powers and the administration must work cooperatively with Congress to boost our nation's programs to counter the terrorist threat. National security should not be a partisan issue, but it will continue to be if the executive branch continues to ignore our common interests in security. We stand ready to work with President Obama, but we will criticize him where we differ on policy if we must.
The Christmas Day terrorist attack is a wake-up call that we are still at war with radical Jihadist groups like al Qaeda that are conducting an unconventional war against our nation. For this reason it is essential that Abdulmutallab be treated as an enemy combatant.
The Obama Administration's record to date in cooperating with Congress and keeping it fully and currently informed about national security threats has been abysmal. The administration has stonewalled Congress about the Fort Hood shooting and the D.C. Five, the Washington area men arrested in Pakistan who allegedly were seeking terrorist training from al Qaeda. Obama officials won't brief Congress or local officials on the threat posed by al Qaeda inmates it proposes to transfer from Guantanamo Bay to Illinois. This lack of transparency is undermining the trust and confidence the American people put in President Obama's national security leadership.
The first and foremost responsibility of elected officials is to defend the American people. As members of the House Committee on Homeland Security and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, we want to work with the Obama Administration to review why Abdulmutallab was not placed on the "no-fly" list; why his name was not flagged and subjected to secondary screening before he was able to board the plane; and what we need to do to ensure tighter security measures are in place and followed, especially from flights that originate from outside the U.S. Not only can we not count on being lucky again, we must assume al Qaeda will learn from this incident in planning another deadly terrorist attack.
As members of Congress and fellow citizens of this nation, we are dedicated to working with this Administration in a bipartisan manner to make certain there are no more communication failures between U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies and work hand-in-hand with other nations to ensure that their security standards meet, or exceed, U.S. security requirements for screening airline passengers.
This leads us to our final point -- the Obama Administration must completely rethink its position on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. There are several reports that former Guantanamo inmates who went through Saudi "re-education" programs are heading an al Qaeda organization in Yemen that instructed Abdulmutallab on how to carry out the Christmas Day terrorist attack and provide him with the PETN explosive he attempted to detonate. If true, this is yet another compelling reason to stop the rush to close Guantanamo and release its dangerous terrorist suspects or move them to the United States.
Congressional Republicans stand ready to work with President Obama to get to the bottom of the Christmas Day terrorist attack. We ask Mr. Obama to be forthcoming with us on this and other crucial national security matters so we can work with him to protect the security of the American people.
First appeared in the Detroit News